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白糖糕 Bai Tang Gao - Steamed Rice Cake

Rice flour, sugar, and instant yeast are the only three ingredients you need to prepare this classic Chinese steamed rice cake (bai tang gao), and a steamer!
Rice flour, sugar, and yeast are the only ingredients you need to make bai tang gao (白糖糕), or Chinese steamed rice cake.

Rice flour, sugar, and yeast are the only ingredients you need to make bai tang gao (白糖糕), or Chinese steamed rice cake.

It must have been more than a decade since I last sink my teeth into a piece of 白糖糕 bai tang gao - steamed rice cake. Since both sets of my grandparents are Cantonese, I grew up eating tons of this soft and chewy cake.

It looks so simple, but believe me, getting that just right texture can be super tricky. Case in point, no one in my family ever attempts this cake and just buy some from the neighborhood shop when the craving hits.

Of course, living halfway across the globe means I have no access to the said trusty shop. But at last, I have managed to recreate this favorite childhood cake of mine :)

To prepare the bai tang gao batter: (1) Mix rice flour with water and stir into clumps; (2) Add hot boiling water and sugar liquid, whisk into a smooth batter; (3) Wait until the batter cools to 38 Celsius (100 Fahrenheit); (4) Add instant yeast, whisk, cover the bowl and rest in 75 Celsius (170 Fahrenheit) oven for 40 minutes.

To prepare the bai tang gao batter: (1) Mix rice flour with water and stir into clumps; (2) Add hot boiling water and sugar liquid, whisk into a smooth batter; (3) Wait until the batter cools to 38 Celsius (100 Fahrenheit); (4) Add instant yeast, whisk, cover the bowl and rest in 75 Celsius (170 Fahrenheit) oven for 40 minutes.

What you need to prepare bai tang gao (Chinese steamed rice cake)

Turns out, you only need three ingredients to make a bai tang gao:

  • rice flour (Note: I always use the one from Erawan brand, if you use another brand, proceed at your own risk)
  • sugar
  • instant yeast, you can use active yeast too but instant is easier
Note the many air bubbles in the batter if the yeast is properly activated at the end of the resting time.

Note the many air bubbles in the batter if the yeast is properly activated at the end of the resting time.

How to prepare the batter for bai tang gao (Chinese steamed rice cake)

I have a detailed step-by-step photo that I hope is sufficient to show the visuals of what you can expect the bai tang gao batter should look like.

  1. First, mix 250 gram of rice flour with 150 ml room temperature water into clumps.
  2. Boil 150 gram sugar with 370 ml water in a small saucepot. Once all the sugar dissolves, pour this to the clumpy rice flour mix from step 1. Whisk into a smooth batter.
  3. Wait for the batter to cool until only warm to touch. If you want to be precise like me, you can use a thermometer and it should read 38 Celsius (100 Fahrenheit). Also, you want to preheat the oven to 75 Celsius (170 Fahrenheit) at this point.
  4. Add the instant yeast to the batter and whisk to mix. Cover the mixing bowl with a saran wrap, then rest in the preheated oven. Immediately turn off the oven heat, and rest the batter for 40 minutes.

At the end of the resting time, you should see that the batter has many air bubbles, which indicates that the yeast is doing its job and we should be getting the desired cake texture. If you don’t see the air bubbles, your yeast is either dead or expired, and unfortunately, there is no point to continue cooking the cake since it will 100% fail.

Bai tang gao (Chinese steamed rice cake), just out from the steamer.

Bai tang gao (Chinese steamed rice cake), just out from the steamer.

Can I use active dry yeast instead of instant yeast?

If all you have in your pantry is active dry yeast, you can use that too. But we will need to modify some of our steps above.

  • Step 1: no change.
  • Step 2: instead of boiling 150 gram sugar with 370 ml water, use only 150 gram water with 350 ml water.
  • Step 3: no change.
  • Step 4: mix 20 ml warm water (38 Celsius/100 Fahrenheit) with the active dry yeast and wait until foamy (usually about 5-10 minutes). Then add to the warm batter (not hot! preferably the batter is also 38 Celsius/100 Fahrenheit), and mix. The rest of the step is the same.

Same as the case with using instant yeast, your batter should have many air bubbles at the end of the resting period. From my own experience, when I use active dry yeast if at step 4 I don’t see any foam after 5-10 minutes from the time I mix the yeast with warm water, it is 100% guaranteed that my yeast has already expired and is completely useless.

Bai tang gao (Chinese steamed rice cake).

Bai tang gao (Chinese steamed rice cake).

Prepping the cake pan

Once your batter has finish resting and has produced many tiny air bubbles, let’s prep our cake pan. I use an 8"x2" round cake pan.

For a successful bai tang gao, you need to pour the batter into a hot pan, so be sure to preheat the pan. It doesn’t need to be scalding hot, but definitely hot enough so it won’t be comfortable to grab it with bare hands.

Brush the hot pan with oil, give the cake batter a final stir so everything is well mixed, then pour the cake batter, and steam.

Bai tang gao (Chinese steamed rice cake).

Bai tang gao (Chinese steamed rice cake).

Steamer pot and tips for a successful steamed rice cake

I hope you do realize before this step that you need a steamer to complete this recipe. After all, we are making a steamed cake, and it even says so in the title.

You can use any kind of steamer as long as it can fit an 8”x2” round cake pan. I prefer a stainless steel steamer for hygiene reasons. But you can use a bamboo steamer too, and you are more likely to get a better result with a bamboo steamer.

Create a makeshift steamer

There is no need to rush out and buy a steamer if you currently don’t have one at home. Instead, you can use this guide from Food52 to create a makeshift steamer.

Fill a large pot with about half an inch of boiling water. Use aluminum foil to make three balls of roughly equal size. Once we are ready to steam, rest the cake pan on top of the foil balls. Cover the pot and steam the cake. Of course, you need to make sure the pot is large enough to accommodate the aluminum foil balls and the cake pan.

Make sure to prevent water droplets fall onto the cake surface

Please make sure that there are no water droplets drop onto the surface of the cake. The steam that rises during the steaming process can condense and turn into water droplets that may fall onto the cake surface. If this happens, your cake may turn sticky and pudding-like instead of light and fluffy.

If you steam with a bamboo steamer and a bamboo cover, you shouldn’t encounter this problem. If your cover is made from metal or glass, please wrap with a piece of kitchen cloth so the cloth will trap the steam and prevent any water droplets from falling onto the cake surface.

And that’s all the tips that I have to prepare a successful bai tang gao (Chinese steamed cake). Enjoy!

白糖糕 Bai Tang Gao - Steamed Rice Cake

4.8 from 34 reviews

Author: Anita Jacobson




Prep Time: 15 mins

Cook Time: 15 mins

Total Time: 30 mins

Serves: 8

Print Recipe


  • 250 gram (8.8 oz) rice flour
  • 150 ml (10 tablespoon) water
  • 150 gram (3/4 cup) sugar
  • 370 ml (1.5 cup + 1 tablespoon) water
  • 5 gram (~ 1 teaspoon) instant yeast


  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix 250 gram rice flour with 150 ml water. It won't be smooth at this point, so don't worry.
  2. In a small saucepot, boil together 150 gram sugar with 370 ml water. Once all the sugar has dissolved and the water is boiling, pour this into the mixing bowl. Whisk until the rice flour mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 75 Celsius (170 Fahrenheit).
  4. Once the rice flour mixture reaches 38 Celsius (100 Fahrenheit), add the instant yeast, and whisk well to combine. Cover the mixing bowl with saran wrap.
  5. Hopefully, your oven has reached 75 Celsius (170 Fahrenheit) at this time. Turn off the oven, and place the covered mixing bowl in the warm oven and let the batter proof until the volume is roughly doubled, and you notice many small bubbles on the batter surface. This should take about 40 minutes.
  6. Prepare a steamer with about 1 inch of boiling water over medium-high heat. Heat an 8"x2" round cake pan until hot to touch. Brush the heated pan with oil, give the rice flour batter a final stir, then pour the batter into the pan.
  7. Steam for 15 minutes. Turn off heat, and let the cake sit in the hot steamer for another 10 minutes.
  8. Remove the cake from the steamer, and let it cool slightly in the pan over a wire rack for about 15 minutes.
  9. Once it is cool enough to handle, gently run a knife along the edges to loosen the cake from pan. Cover the pan with a plate, and flip the cake on to the plate. Then, flip again onto a wire rack to cool completely. Cut into 8 wedges, and serve at room temperature with some hot tea.
Indonesian Pantry
Indonesian Kitchen


  • Angela Angela says:

    I had no idea this would be so easy to make. It's one of my absolute favorite dishes. Thanks so much for sharing :)

    • Anita Anita says:

      Angela, this is the easy version. I actually have an old version recipe for bai tang gao that involves fermentation of 24 hours and more (the more the better), which is super involved. So I am glad there is an easy bai tang gao recipe with instant yeast. :)

      • Gia Gia says:

        Made this tonight and it was so easy. Am waiting for it to cool completely but it smells delicious. So happy that I found this recipe as these are my favorite dim sum dessert. It's also hard to find now so happy I can make my own. You mentioned you had a non-yeast version? Do you have it available? Am up to the challenge to make a natural ferment version.

  • Irina Irina says:

    Oh, WOW! This steamed rice cake is magical! It looks so airy! It is a must for me to make it! Thanks for sharing.

  • Beth Beth says:

    These look so tasty and elegant! Perfect party recipe!

    • Anita Anita says:

      Indeed, Beth. Especially if there's some delicious tea involved!

  • georgie georgie says:

    this sounds really interesting! I'd love to try it!

  • Farah Farah says:

    Wow this looks so interesting! I love exotic recipes like this and can't wait to try!

  • Tawnie Kroll Tawnie Kroll says:

    So easy to make - thank you for this recipe!

  • Haley D Williams Haley D Williams says:

    This looks so good! I have to try this with that rice flour! Cannot wait!

  • Noelle Noelle says:

    This is a very interesting recipe, I haven't tried anything like this before and I really enjoyed it. Thank you!

  • Kelly Anthony Kelly Anthony says:

    I've never made a steamed rice cake so I'm excited to cook something new.

  • Carrie Robinson Carrie Robinson says:

    I have never heard of this before, but it looks delicious. :)

  • Vanna Vanna says:

    Can you please convert to US metric.

    • carrie carrie says:

      I believe it's better to use grams in my opinion so the recipe is more precise and the food turns out well

  • Dawn Dawn says:

    Great recipe, easy to read directions. Thanks for converting the measurements for us. I made the rice cake last night and it tastes wonderful!

  • Patty at Spoonabilities Patty at Spoonabilities says:

    This looks so interesting! I've actually never heard of steamed rice cake and am super excited to try it!

  • Emily Emily says:

    Wow! I've never made steamed rice cakes before but now that I know it's easy, I need to try it!

  • Krissy Allori Krissy Allori says:

    Oh wow! This looks amazing. You post the best recipes. I have loved all the ones I have tried. Thanks for opening my world up to new things.

  • Christie Gagnon Christie Gagnon says:

    This looks lovely! Do you ever serve any type of sauce on top?

    • Anita Anita says:

      The cake is quite sweet on its own, so we usually serve the cake plain, Christie. I guess if I were to serve this with some sauce, I would choose to serve it with a palm sugar pandan syrup.

      To make the syrup, boil together 200 gram coconut palm sugar, 200 ml water, a pinch of salt, and 2-3 knotted pandan leaves. Once all the sugar has dissolved, turn off the heat and rest for another 10-15 minutes before discarding the pandan leaves. Drizzle the cake with the coconut palm sugar syrup.

  • Biana Biana says:

    The rice cake looks amazing, I am looking forward to trying it!

  • Mrs Kunabalan Mrs Kunabalan says:

    I never thought making this cake would be so easy. I must try it

  • Amy Amy says:

    Hi, may i know why my fermentation stage, the batter shrunk in size instead of doubled?

    • Anita Anita says:

      That sounds very strange. The only ingredient responsible for the fermentation is the yeast, so I think the only possibility is there's something wrong with the yeast. Maybe try with a new batch of yeast? I'm sorry if I can't help much.

  • Meena Meena says:

    Excellent..the recipe is perfect.

  • Ann Ann says:

    Hi , may I know which brand of yeast is used? I have use the SAF instant dry yeast. But, the rice cake doesn't taste good. It has a very very strong alcohol taste and smell.

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Ann, I usually use SAF instant yeast - gold (https://amzn.to/2zYq7DK).

  • Sherry Sherry says:

    Iconic old school Chinese dessert from the past and it turned out great.

  • Sabrina Sabrina says:

    Hi Anita! I want to make this soon, but before I do, I'd like to ask how you store your leftovers? Thanks!

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Sabrina, if it is just for up to 2 days, you can store the leftover in an airtight container at room temperature. If it is up to a week, it is better to store in the fridge. If the cake turns hard during storage time, the best way is to steam the cake again until soft again.

  • Shari Shari says:

    It didn’t turn out. It was a sticky blob. My batter did bubble up and increase in size, so I don’t know what went wrong.

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Shari, I'm sorry it didn't turn out well. I have another reader who also ended up with a sticky blob. Turned out she didn't wrap her steamer cover with a piece of cloth so the steam turns into water droplets and fall onto the surface of the cake during steaming. Her next attempt was a success.

      If you steam with a bamboo steamer, this is usually not a problem. But if you steam with a metal/glass cover, you want to wrap the cover with kitchen cloth so the steam is trapped by the cloth and won't drip onto the cake.

  • Ann Ann says:

    May I know how long would I need to ferment the mixture if I were to place it in room temperature instead of the pre heated oven?

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Ann, it can take anywhere from 2-3 hours depending on your kitchen temperature. The batter is ready when you see that the volume has doubled and there are plenty of bubbles.

  • Diana Diana says:

    When I try to cover with a cloth , it would dip down and touch my cake batter. So I covered it with a plate (first time around I didn’t cover it and it turned out to be more pudding looking). I got the strings/honeycomb look but they’re pretty compact, the gaps are pretty small. What can I do to fix this?

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Diana, this usually happens if the cake pan is not hot enough before pouring the batter. If you can make sure that the cake pan won't become wet, you can heat it inside the steamer for 5 minutes. Then double-check to make sure the pan is dry, then brush with oil, and pour the cake batter and steam.

  • Peter Peter says:

    Mine did not turn out either despite following the instructions completely. It came out too dense and lacked springiness. There were bubbles perhaps not enough. I used Fleischmann instant yeast.
    At a separate time, I let it to ferment longer but it developed too much alcohol and not enough sweetness. A "simple" recipe can be so difficult to master and replicate. I am open to suggestions or a more involved recipe. Even at dim sum restaurants there is considerable variability.

  • Carla Carla says:

    The recipe was easy to follow. It turned out good. I was just missing that rice wine flavor. Thank you for sharing this recipe!

  • Jess Jess says:

    Hi, how would this recipe work with fresh yeast (not powdered) Thanks!

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Jess, I have never tried using fresh yeast before so I'm not sure. Sorry I can't help.

  • H Lam H Lam says:

    Hi Anita, can you please share the original old version? Just want to know for refer and maybe try to make. Thanks

    • Anita Anita says:

      You can try this recipe from My Kitchen 101.
      My tips:
      - Soak the rice for 12-24 hours (step 2), the longer the better.
      - To make it more fragrant, add 2-3 pandan leaves when preparing the sugar solution (step 6).
      - If you have some coconut oil, brush your cake pan with coconut oil instead of neutral oil (step 11).

  • Irene Irene says:

    This has been my quarantine project. I've tried 7-10 different recipes, and while the taste and texture were very close, they have not come out the same as the one from that trusty shop! I'm going to try your version, but I was curious about the older version recipe that you mentioned, the one with 24 hour fermentation. Would you share that too? Thank you.

    • Anita Anita says:

      Please see my reply to H Lam above. :)

  • jy jy says:

    There is rice cake that we usually purchase in Downtown Los Angeles Chinatown. It kind of taste like they put an almond flavoring. Do you know if we can put almond extract to this recipe? Or is that rice wine as mentioned by another user (Carla). Please let us know. Thanks.

    • Anita Anita says:

      I'm sorry but I have never tried that particular rice cake from Downtown LA, but since this is no different than any other cake, you can add some almond extract (~ 1/2 teaspoon) to flavor the cake. I have also never added any alcohol to this cake before, though I think 1-2 tablespoons of rice wine should be okay if that's the kind of flavor profile you are trying to aim for. :)

  • Lentil Lee Lentil Lee says:

    Good texture. Sadly, sickeningly sweet.

  • May Lew May Lew says:

    I know how great this snack is. We always had it growing up. It seems like the older we got the more rare it was to actually find it. I tried to make it and it came out very dry in the middle of the cake and dense. Do you have any tips for this?

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi May, you can try the following step for your next attempt. Once the you remove the cake from the steamer, brush the top of the cake lightly with vegetable oil. The oil gives the cake a nice shine and keep it moist at the same time. Allow it to cool on the counter before cutting and serving.

  • Maymay Maymay says:

    I made this, however I've not actually eaten it before, what should the texture be like? Chewy like 年糕 or fluffy like 馬拉糕?or in between? Thank you

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Maymay, it's definitely not fluffy like a 馬拉糕, but also not chewy like a 年糕. I would say somewhere in the middle between a mochi and a gelatin/agar-agar dessert. If you have tried a honeycomb cake before, the texture we are aiming for is probably the closest to that cake. ;)

  • Pat Mah Pat Mah says:

    Hi Anita, My bak tong you does not turn out as white as the ones from the chinese bakery. Can you give me some tips on that?

    • Anita Anita says:

      Harusnya warna putihnya cuma tergantung dari warna rice flour (tepung beras) dan sugar (gula), Pat Mah. Apakah kuenya menjadi kekuningan dan kurang putih? Tapi rasa dan tekstur sudah benar?

  • Lani Lani says:

    Hi Anita, I've had this rice cake with a hint of sourness to it (a good sour like in sourdough breads). How do I achieve that using your recipe? Thanks!

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Lani, I think you can only achieve that if you follow a more traditional recipe by fermenting rice with yeast balls instead of using rice flour and instant yeast. The old recipe takes days, but if you have the time, you may want to give it a try. You can follow this recipe from https://auntyyochana.blogspot.com/2006/10/pak-thong-koh.html

  • Le Hoa Tran Le Hoa Tran says:

    you have a kind heart and genius to show peole. first time I have just read your receipe, I have a problem that I don't know how to keep my mixture to warm enough, also I use instant dry yeast, do I need to activate the yeast with 1 tsp of sugar amd 2 tbsp of warm water (38 degree celcius) before pour into the mixture. I don't get my mixture double up the size and lots of bubbles. it is just a tiny bubble. After steaming I get just a very tiny little combe. thanks for letting me know.

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Le Hoa Tran, if you use instant dry yeast, you don't need to active the yeast first. If you don't own an oven where you can keep the dough in a constant warm temperature, you can also just let the dough rest at room temperature. When resting the dough at room temperature, you may need up to 4 hours to get a vigorous bubbles (volume rising) since the cooler the temperature, the longer it takes the dough to bubble/ferment.

  • Lucille Lucille says:

    My rice cake turn out a little sour. Is it supposed to taste that way?

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Lucille, it depends on the fermentation time. I tried to limit it to under one hour so it doesn't turn sour. Some people actually prefer the sourness and purposefully ferment the dough for a long time to ensure the cake turns slightly sour, so in the end, it is up to individual preference.

  • Jess Jess says:

    Hi Anita, Thanks for the recipe! The flavor was really accurate to what I bought as a kid, but there was an issue with the texture. The texture turned sticky and blob-like on the top, and was denser than what it should be. I used a bamboo steamer and steamed it on med-high for 40mins. Should I have steamed it longer?

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Jess, I know you said you were using a bamboo steamer, but the sticky blob-like on the top of the cake usually only happen when there are water droplets that accidentally fall on the top of the cake surface. Perhaps if you want to give it another try, try covering the steamer top with kitchen towel to absorb the water droplets and prevent them from dropping onto the cake?

      Also, it could also be due to the steam time. My recipe says to only steam for 15 minutes, and then turn off the heat and rest inside the steamer for another 10 minutes. 40 minutes is just too long. ;)

  • Joni Yu Joni Yu says:

    Hi, I followed your recipe to the letter but why is the result 1) no bubbles produced 2) very dense 3) didn't rise at all What do you think is wrong?

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Joni, if there is no bubble at all, it is either because the yeast is already expired, or it could also be due to adding the yeast when the mixture is still too hot (above 100 F) and the heat kills the yeast. So please confirm that the yeast is not expired, or please wait until the mixture cools to 100F before adding the yeast. If the yeast works, you should see bubbles, and will avoid the cake being dense and not rising.

  • wo ng wo ng says:

    I tried your recipe yesterday. This is Cantonese kids' snack. It brings back memory of my childhood and I still call this cake in its cantonese name so that my children know this cake before I 'expire'. My child loves it but I fail her because I cant get the original texture and smell which I ate more than 40 years ago in Singapore. She didn't get to taste the authentic version so I like to find out where I did wrong yesterday. I followed your steps of instructions except I fermented it for 1.5 hours at Singapore temperature of around 30 degree Celsius. Got bubbles but not doubled in size though. After steaming, the top portion of the cake looked right. Fluffy and airy. The bottom layer was however, hard; not airy and fluffy at all. Could you kindly give me a tip or 2 how to improve the cake without getting a hard bottom? Thanks and stay safe.

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Wo Ng, if the volume of your batter didn't double even after 1.5 hours of resting, it sounds like the yeast you were using was still partially active, but pretty close to its expiration date. That's one of the main reason why you still saw a partial honeycomb (good) texture on top the of the cake, but the bottom was dense because there wasn't enough air bubbles in the batter to make that happen.

      If you want to test whether your yeast is still good or not, you can try mixing just 150 ml warm water (about 100 F) with 5 gram yeast and 5 gram sugar. If after 5 minutes you don't see any bubbles forming, your yeast has most likely expired despite the stated expiration date is still in the future.

  • janeway janeway says:

    Mine comes up, the top half is great but the lower part is much denser than the top without much holes, what could have caused this? I used an electric steamer

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Janeway, did the volume of your batter double at the end of resting? If it produced plenty of bubbles but didn't double in volume, the yeast you were using was still partially active, but pretty close to its expiration date (despite the stated expiration date on the packet). That's usually the main reason you still saw a partial honeycomb (good) texture on top the of the cake, but the bottom was dense because there wasn't enough air bubbles in the batter to make that happen.

  • Dee Thompson Dee Thompson says:

    Can you use mochiko or sweet rice flour for this recipe?

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Dee, we can't use mochiko/sweet rice flour for this recipe. It has to be rice flour.

  • Judith Aquino Judith Aquino says:

    Hi Anita. I just bumped into this recipe and it reminds me of our Philippine rice 'muffin' called puto. Can I use muffin or cupcake tins instead? In case I couldn't get a trace of your answer from your blog, I hope you will please email me your reply. Thank you so much.

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Judith, I haven't tried using muffin cups to steam this cake, but I believe it should be doable. Since the steaming time is only 15 minutes, I am quite sure it should also take about the same time when using muffin cups. Please let me know how it goes if you decide to give it a try. :)

  • SY Tan SY Tan says:

    Hi.. can i use aluminium foil to cover the cake pan from the water droplets? i always uses this for my steamed egg pudding.

    • Anita Anita says:

      Yes, you can use aluminum foil to cover the cake pan. :)

      • SY Tan SY Tan says:

        Okay thanks :)

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